Believe in God; believe that he is, and that he created all things, both in heaven and in earth; believe that he has all wisdom, and all power, both in heaven and in earth; believe that man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend.
– Mosiah 4:9
As I contemplated what to write for the dedication of my Ph.D. thesis, I flipped through the dissertations of my predecessors. Most of them were dedicated to various family members of the author. Though I liked that idea, I had acknowledged my family warmly in the Acknowledgements section already. I also felt that the dedication should be the one that the thesis was written “to” or “for,” and as proud of me as my parents were for completing my dissertation, it wasn’t written “to” or “for” them. As I pondered this dilemma of the dedication, the idea of Matthew 5:16 kept pressing on my mind: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” What I really wanted to do was dedicate my thesis to the Maker of all things—to my God.
Although our Heavenly Father is not the one who granted to me my degree, He is the one “to” whom and “for” whom I felt I had written my dissertation. I knew that He already knew everything I had discovered, yet I felt it was to glorify Him that I had worked so hard to uncover it. I decided to use a scripture for my dedication—not the whole text, just the reference. After a brief search among relevant passages and favorite verses, I decided on Mosiah 4:9 (quoted above). It felt beautifully appropriate…
“Believe in God; believe that he is…”
A strong admonition, yet something I had longed to say to my colleagues for years. The missionary opportunities had to me seemed few, and had never invited such a bold statement. Perhaps someday a colleague would see the reference, search “Mosiah 4:9” on the internet, and find it.
“…that he created all things…”
Among biologists, the idea of God “creating” life and mankind often generates an impatient, condescending tone. I do not claim to know how evolution and God interact, but I believe that they do, and I see no conflict between biology and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
“…both in heaven and in earth…”
The phrase “in heaven” had special relevance and meaning because my dissertation was on the mechanics of bird flight.
“…believe that he has all wisdom…”
As I performed my research, sometimes I felt that I was merely tapping into God’s understanding. I would pray for help, knowing that He knew what I wanted to discover.
“…and all power, both in heaven and in earth…”
After all my research, I still couldn’t really say “how” birds fly, though I felt I had come closer. I am sure it is possible for us to know, but at times I just want to say that God keeps them aloft.
“…believe that man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend.”
At the end of every dissertation is a feeling that the years invested into research have only scratched the surface. There remains so much to learn of God’s infinite understanding.
The last principle of this verse, that “man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend,” not only applies in research. I find great comfort in knowing that God understands what I do not. He understands how we can live again after we die. He understands how we can be bound forever to our families. He understands how the suffering of Jesus Christ paid for my mistakes. He understands infinitely more.
For the wisdom and power of God, I am eternally grateful.
Angela M. Berg Robertson received her Ph.D. from Harvard University in 2010, from the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology. Her research focused on the muscle function, kinematics (movement), and aerodynamics of takeoff and landing flight in birds. Portions of her dissertation have been published in the Journal for Experimental Biology, and the rest is currently in preparation for publication. She graduated from Duke University with a B.S. in Biology and a minor in Religion. She is currently a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Houston Center for Neuromotor and Biomechanics Research (in the National Center for Human Performance at the Texas Medical Center), where she is studying human locomotion.
Posted November 2010